9 Pros and Cons of Living in Alaska

While Alaska is full of natural beauty and doesn’t have a state income tax, some might find that the brutal winters and high crime rates are a deal breaker.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
With all of Alaska’s natural wonders, summer days with nearly 24 hours of sunlight, and no state income tax, there are plenty of people that think it’s a paradise. However, high crime rates, steep prices for goods, and brutal winters can make living in
quite a challenge.
Before picking up and moving to a new state, it’s important to know all of the pros and cons. For some people, Alaska seems like an outdoorsman’s paradise with plenty of opportunities to make the move worth it. But for others, the high crime rates and remote locations can be a big turn-off.
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Pro: Even the larger cities have small town charm

Juneau, Alaska’s largest city (and capital) has only 300,000 people living there. So while it might not be a bustling metropolis, it’s perfect for anyone dreaming of the small town feel without completely sacrificing amenities and entertainment. 
Whether it’s Juneau, Fairbanks, or Anchorage, you’ll find the same thing—friendly locals, unique shopping, and picturesque views. So while some may rather settle someplace that’s a little more bustling, those that want to live in a town that looks like it belongs in a Hallmark movie will love Alaska. 

Con: The rest of the state is remote

Unless you decide to settle in one of Alaska’s larger cities, the rest of the state is incredibly remote. Alaska isn’t called “The Last Frontier” without good reason—much of the state is still largely unsettled and untamed, and plenty of villages are miles from anything. That includes healthcare, law enforcement, or the next nearest town. 
Alaska has the lowest population density of any other state in the nation. There’s only one person per square mile – compare that to the national average of 72 people per square mile. In fact, there are many villages in Alaska that can only be accessed by boat or plane. And, there are more Caribou in Alaska than people! So if you’re someone that enjoys having neighbors, Alaska may not be for you!

Pro: Natural beauty is not in short supply

There is one upside to Alaska’s extremely low population density—mile upon mile of unspoiled natural beauty. Of the 365 million acres that make up the state of Alaska, only 160,000 of them have been developed. This means over 99% of the state is wilderness. Alaska is home to 16 of the 20 tallest mountains in the United States, and it has the largest state park system in the country with over 3.2 million acres of protected land.
In short, Alaska is an outdoorsman’s paradise. There are opportunities for nearly every kind of outdoor activity imaginable from hunting and fishing to hiking, kayaking, touring glaciers, taking in the Northern Lights, and even watching Humpback whales as they migrate back to Alaskan waters. 

Con: The wildlife may try to eat you

Since Alaska is mostly wilderness, there’s plenty of wildlife. (Remember that fun fact about the Caribou?) However, some of the local animals are big and potentially dangerous if you encounter them in the wild.
Brown and black bears are extremely common in Alaska, and although they generally avoid populated areas, it’s completely possible to run into one if you’re spending time hiking or camping. While there are only around three to four bear attacks per year in Alaska, it’s something to keep in mind if you plan to spend any time exploring the wilderness.
Alaska is also home to moose, which can be surprisingly aggressive. They’re also not as shy about coming into residential areas as bears are, so you’re more likely to run into one. And if you happen to hit one with your car, you may as well resign yourself to getting a new vehicle.

Pro: Summers are perfect for outdoor activities

Although summers are fairly short in Alaska, you can’t beat nearly 24 hours of summer sunlight. Because of Alaska’s position so close to the North Pole, the sun doesn’t set for more than a few hours during summer. And in some extremely northern locations, the sun doesn’t set at all. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy outdoor activities!
With average summer temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you can enjoy the beauty of Alaska in the summer without worrying about roasting in the heat (we’re looking at you, Arizona). 

Con: The winters will make you wish you could hibernate

While summers are mild and full of sunshine, the winters might make you wish you could hibernate until spring. Autumn begins as early as the first week of August and temperatures quickly start to drop. Between November and March, the average temperatures are between 0 and -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Add that to the average 64 inches of snowfall a year, and the Alaskan winter can drive off even the toughest of inhabitants.
And all those hours of daylight in the summer? Prepare for the exact opposite during the winter. Days are incredibly short and there are long stretches of darkness. During the longest day of winter, most of Alaska only gets five hours of sunlight!
MORE: 8 ways to prepare your car for winter driving or storage

Pro: No state income tax

If the weather and wildlife don’t scare you away, there is one big perk of living in Alaska: no state income tax. Plus, most cities and counties have very low local taxes as well. 
There aren’t any sales tax rates over 7.5% in the entire state, and the average combined state and local tax rates are 1.7%. With very little tax responsibilities, workers in Alaska can keep more of their paychecks which is a big draw for a lot of residents.

Con: Cost of living is high

While residents may save money when it comes time for taxes, the cost of living is very high. In fact, Alaska has one of the highest cost of living ratings in the entire nation. 
Most of the cost comes from having to ship goods so far north. Since Alaska is so far removed from the lower 48 states, getting groceries, supplies, and fuel to Alaska is costly and takes a lot of time. This causes the prices of goods to increase dramatically. There are even some villages and towns that can only get supplies by boat or plane.
The cost of groceries index in Alaska is rated at 141.7 compared to the national average of 100. Utilities are rated at a whopping 168.9 compared to the U.S. average of 100. 
MORE: Cost of living in Alaska

Con: High crime rates

For all its natural beauty and small-town charm, Alaska still has high rates of violent and property crime. The rates of violent crime in Alaska are 8.6 incidents per 1,000 residents—compare that to the national average of 4 incidents per 1,000 people. And property crime is also way above the national average.
Some factors that contribute to the high crime rates is how remote some towns are. In many cases, small cities don’t have a police force of their own but rely on state law enforcement. These officers can be miles away and in some cases, there is only one law enforcement officer responsible for areas up to 1 million acres. So if an incident should occur, sometimes the police can’t respond for hours or even days.

Is Alaska a good state to live in?

Alaska is a great state to live in for some, but others may not like it. If you’re considering a move to Alaska, make sure you weigh all the pros and cons before you make a decision.
Alaska is perfect for those who:
  • Enjoy the outdoors and outdoor activities
  • Like peace and quiet
  • Love small town atmospheres
  • Aren’t bothered by weird weather patterns
But if you’re concerned about crime or living in remote locations, Alaska may not be for you. 

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Alaska is part of the “Ring of Fire” where the Pacific tectonic plate meets other tectonic plates and causes constant shifting and volcanic eruptions. Alaska is prone to earthquakes, as well as volcanic eruptions in the Aleutian Islands as a result.
Winters in Alaska are incredibly harsh. Autumn can start as early as the first week of August, and temperatures quickly plummet. Temperatures range between 0 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit from November to March, and the state gets over 64 inches of snowfall a year.
It depends on where you live, but there are several cities in villages in Alaska with large Native Alaskan populations. Native Alaskans consist of nearly 30 different tribes, each with its own unique cultures and languages.
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